May 5, 2010

In and Out of the Quad Cities

Contributed by Gail McPike and Toni Hall

Gail and Toni 2

We have a common thread (ok, yarn) with Hans Christian Anderson, The Brothers Grimm, and Mother Goose. Have you ever noticed how many fairy tales involve knitting needles, spinning wheels, and little cottages out in the country? Think about it! There is Rumpelstiltskin spinning gold from hay and Sleeping Beauty pricking her finger on a knitting needle. Ok, still not convinced? Look up the story “The spindle, the shuttle and the needle” by the Grimm boys. Take our word for it, without knitting and yarn there would be no fairy tales. No fairy tales – no bed-time stories. We can’t imagine the world without knitting or fairy tales. So join us this month as we spin a tale about our travels.

“Once upon a time” is the beginning of choice for fairy tale writers everywhere. Ours is no different. The only difference is we can assign a more specific date to the adventure – March 23rd to be precise. For our enchanted forest, we traveled to the wooded campus of St. Ambrose. It
was multi-cultural week which brought with it spinning and knitting presentations.

Our friend Professor Robin Anderson invited us to a night out at SAU. Peace, love, fiber to you Robin. It was a treat to see all of the young
people interested in the ancient arts of wool, yarn and fiber. Just imagine, spinning fiber and knitting have been around since biblical times. Without yarn we would all be playing volleyball in a place called sunny valley nature camp. But we digress; regular readers know that we are knitters and as of last month Gail is spinning wool into yarn. Our night out began with dinner at the St. Ambrose dinning hall, an Italian feast which was part of the international/multicultural theme. We enjoyed conversations with young knitters and spinners. The presentations were the kind of thing people pay big bucks to see in Chicago. Keep your eyes peeled for these cool events at the local colleges. They treat non-students like royalty and you live happily ever after.

But before we end our fairy tale, let us tell you about the little cottage. On April 10th we did a road trip to the little cottage located at Fae Ridge Farms near Iowa City. Fae Ridge Farms is the center of the universe for knitting, spinning and all the rest. If Snow White had lived in Iowa, she would have taken up residence out in the boonies at Fae Ridge. Since no visit to the cottage in the enchanted forest is complete without a trip to the magician’s lair, we decided to visit a couple of magic spots in Iowa city. John’s Market Street Market has been an Iowa City hot spot for nearly 100 years. This small grocery on the campus of Iowa University features the largest selection of beers and ales at home or abroad. We watched as Frank and Phil shopped the mega selection. This is a must see for an Iowa City pilgrimage.

We love music – we love the Cowboy Junkies

We love music. Our hubbies love music. Toni and Phil are taking another round of dance lessons. Gail’s Frank plays in a garage band with an all-star line up of neighborhood musicians tentatively going by the name – Jake Legg and the Can’t Hardly Playboys. Is it any wonder that we would support the River Music Experience?

On Wednesday March 24th, Gail, Frank and half dozen neighbors went downtown to see The Cowboy Junkies. For those of you who hibernated through the 1980’s, the Cowboy Junkies band wrote the sound track for the late 80’s. Imagine sultry girl singer crooning to the eerie sound of an alternative country band and you have the Cowboy Junkies. For those of you who have never been to the RME’s Redstone Room, imagine a place where a legendary band (with 22 albums, dozens of awards and a singer named one of the 50 most beautiful people in the world by People Magazine) hang out and perform in an intimate “listening” atmosphere. Every time we go we have to pinch ourselves to remember we aren’t in New York City or some trendy section of Denver, we’re just two miles from home in Downtown Davenport.

Taylorville-style Tasting in the Heights

We are not always out and about; sometimes we stay at home and bring the good times to us. Gail and hubmeister Frank hosted a Taylorville-style wine tasting on Thursday, March 25th. It was attended by a blue-ribbon group of folks from all over the Quad-Cities.

For those of you who don’t hail from the “promised land” of Central Illinois, here’s a quick run down. Taylorville, Illinois (Frank’s ancestral home) is the 10 thousand person beacon of weirdness located smack dab in the center of Christian County. If you know anybody from Taylorville, they would tell you – they do things differently there! A Taylorville-style wine tasting revolves around drinking wine from a brown paper sack, a number and the Taylorville Code (TC).

In the interest of unraveling the Taylorville Code, here’s how the wine tasting works. Everybody comes to the party toting a bottle of wine. As soon as you arrive the wine is confiscated and loaded into a brown paper bag – bearing a number. You are given a slip of paper bearing a letter or group of letters. Once everyone arrives, the wine judging begins with everyone selecting their 1st, 2nd and 3rd choice. At the end, the Taylorville Code is revealed and the person who brought the best wine is lauded as the hero of the night and lavished with “fantastic” prizes. Our guests brought along over 25 different wines all under $9.99 in price. Amazingly, one vintage was recognized as the best by nine people.

A blatant plug for the River Music Experience

The wine tasting above mentioned above was a fund-raiser for the music education programs conducted at the River Music Experience. We think it’s important and here’s why. The economic situation of today means limited or no music lessons in the schools. The River Music Experience provides music education for kids of all ages. It conducts dozens of programs ranging from family oriented drum circles to a series of lesson pods for after school private lessons. Experts tell us that music aids in the treatment of autism in children and Alzheimer’s Syndrome in aging adults. The facility houses the only music therapy program anywhere between Chicago and Denver.

Many people imagine that such an important facility is somehow supported by state or local tax dollars. But in real life this organization depends on the generosity of our community. The Redstone Room – previously mentioned above – provides a bit of the support. The rest comes through memberships and donations. Now is a great time to contribute to the RME. A family membership is only $50 but the group would happily accept whatever amount you can afford. Mention this article and we will provide you with the name of the award winning wine selected by our group last month. We promise you – you’ll agree this stuff tastes like a hundred dollar bottle and it costs less than ten bucks.

Girls on the Roof

Toni and Phil attended the presentation of “Girls on the Roof” at the Bettendorf Public Library on Thursday, April 15th. Mary Swander, Iowa’s Poet Laureate, read from her narrative poem about a mother and daughter who are stuck on top of the roof of Crazy Eddy’s Cafe on the banks of the Mississippi River for three days during the 1993 flood. Puppetteer Monica Leo of the Eulenspoegel Puppet Company brought the scenes to life with hand, rod and shadow puppets. The presentation was a wonderful treat. Our area libraries are another great asset for us here in the Quad Cities! There is always something to do at the library. We think that everyone should check it out.

The Mallards Finish the Season

Toni and Phil took in the last hockey game of the season on Friday, April 16th at the iWireless Center. It was quite a contest and it went into sudden death overtime. Then there was a shoot out and the Mallards finally won 4-3. We even saw a hockey fight on the ice. It was a great deal of fun and we would go back, except now we have to wait until next year. At least the River Bandits have started playing baseball. We will look at the schedule and plan to take in a game there.

Spring is here and we are looking forward to getting out and about. There is so much to do; it will be hard to choose. We hope that you will be out there, too.